Ronald Reagan made the case for Senate approval for Justice Scalia’s replacement in a 1987 speech.
The unexpected death of conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has set off a battle over whether President Barack Obama or the next president should appoint his replacement.
Pres. Obama paid tribute to Justice Scalia in a Saturday evening statement, saying that Scalia “will no doubt be remembered as one of the most consequential judges and thinkers to serve on the Supreme Court.”
“Obviously, today is a time to remember Justice Scalia’s legacy,” the President continued, adding: “I plan to fulfill my constitutional responsibilities to nominate a successor in due time. There will be plenty of time for me to do so, and for the Senate to fulfill its responsibility to give that person a fair hearing and a timely vote.”
The Republican presidential hopefuls are either claiming that President Obama lacks either the Constitutional authority or the historic precedent to nominate a judge to the Supreme Court this late in his term. When reminded by CBS debate host John Dickerson last Saturday about Reagan’s late-term appointment of Kennedy the candidates all held their ground as the audience booed Dickerson.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who voted to confirm Kennedy’s 1988 appointment by Reagan, released a statement stating that “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President.”
Progressive firebrand Sen. Elizabeth Warren blasted the Republican response to the controversy in a post on her official Facebook page blasting McConnell and reminding Republicans that: “Article II Section 2 of the Constitution says the President of the United States nominates justices to the Supreme Court, with the advice and consent of the Senate. I can’t find a clause that says ‘…except when there’s a year left in the term of a Democratic President.’”
She concluded with a stern warning: “Senate Republicans took an oath just like Senate Democrats did. Abandoning the duties they swore to uphold would threaten both the Constitution and our democracy itself. It would also prove that all the Republican talk about loving the Constitution is just that — empty talk.”
However, possibly the most effective argument for Republicans to stand down and quickly approve Pres. Obama’s eventual nominee comes from Pres. Ronald Reagan himself.
On 11 November 1987 with about 13 months left in office, Pres. Reagan gave a speech announcing his nomination of Anthony M. Kennedy to serve as an Associate Justice for the United States Supreme Court.
The president began his speech by reminding the nation of his “constitutional duty” to make the nomination: “It’s not just in fulfillment of my constitutional duty but with great pride and respect for his many years of public service, that I am today announcing my intention to nominate United States Circuit Judge Anthony Kennedy to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.”
After briefly discussing Kennedy’s background, Reagan called on the Senate to fulfill their own obligation and restore the Supreme Court to full strength.
I believe the mood and the time is now right for all Americans in this bicentennial year of the Constitution to join together in a bipartisan effort to fulfill our constitutional obligation of restoring the United States Supreme Court to full strength. By selecting Anthony M. Kennedy, a superbly qualified judge whose fitness for the high court has been remarked upon by leaders of the Senate in both parties, I have sought to ensure the success of that effort.
Reagan concluded his prepared remarks asking the Senate to hold “prompt hearings conducted in the spirit of cooperation and bipartisanship,” promising “I’ll do everything in my power as President to assist in that process.”
You can watch the full announcement, below: